The Best Nursing Pillow

Nursing pillows can make breastfeeding easier for both mom and baby by providing extra support and comfort, particularly during the first few weeks while mom is recovering from giving birth. After considering the 10 nursing pillows on the market, I’m confident that My Brest Friend Deluxe ($49 with slipcover included; Amazon.com—pictured above is the newly released “green paisley” version) does the job the best, plus gives moms a few extras to support the early days with an infant.

On the surface, nursing pillows look (and cost) pretty much the same, although some brands offer designer (read, expensive) slipcover fabrics. Just keep in mind that a nursing pillow is down in the trenches with breastfeeding moms, often from that very first post-delivery feeding, and comfort should be prioritized over all else.We spent three weeks and 25 hours researching the 10 breastfeeding pillows currently on the market, ultimately testing our top three selections. We also interviewed lactation consultants, as well as actual moms who have used nursing pillows on their breastfeeding journeys. When the research and testing were complete, My Brest Friend Deluxe was the winner because it works for many different body types, is easy to use and clean, and doesn’t cost too much.

WHO SHOULD BUY A NURSING PILLOW?

A nursing pillow belongs on the “nice to have” list for expecting parents. You can live without one, or make due with an all-purpose pillow. Women breastfed successfully for generations before official nursing pillows hit the consumer market, and many continue to do so today.

Compared with the cost of other baby gear, however, a nursing pillow is an affordable item that could end up saving you more in the long run if it helps you breastfeed longer and more comfortably. (Longer nursing means less money spent on infant formula.) Even moms who are not interested in breastfeeding might consider nursing pillows as a way to support baby during bottle-feeding sessions, or simply to lift them closer to their chests during cuddling. The prices of even top-of-the-line pillows aren’t outrageous additions to a baby registry.

Longer nursing means less money spent on infant formula.

We have to stop here for a second and let you in on a few things the nursing pillow industry may not want you hear, though. Nursing pillows are made specifically to help with, well, nursing, but many lactation specialists and groups aren’t fans of of them. A growing group of breastfeeding advocacy groups, including La Leche League, now recommend a laid-back style of nursing where the mother reclines back, with baby positioned with his whole face facing the breast and his body flat on his mother’s body. Other experts believe that no matter what the breastfeeding position of choice, nursing pillows are just one more thing that can get in the way of the natural order of things.

Laene Keith is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with a major hospital group in Florida. She sees both the good and bad when it comes to nursing pillows. “I am of the minimalistic camp when it comes to additional support because I believe strongly in a laid-back breastfeeding approach in which baby is well supported by mommy while she is reclined,” said Keith. “With that said, I have witnessed many babies who definitely benefit from the additional positional and postural support provided by a nursing pillow.”

Many mothers have found the comfort Keith references by using nursing pillows, especially in the days following labor and delivery. St. Louis parenting blogger Heather Campbell says that her nursing pillow proved invaluable when trying to establish a breastfeeding bond with her twin daughters, born premature. “After exclusively pumping while my twins spent their first 30 days in the NICU, it was important to me to be able to establish a good nursing bond when we arrived home. My nursing pillow enabled me to nurse both babies at the same time, keeping my hands free for adjustments and saving me loads of time.”

Not all moms are fond of nursing pillows, though. Atlanta mom-of-two Amy Kennedy felt that the nursing pillow just added one more complication to the breastfeeding process.  “The nursing pillow helped for a while, but I always had to add blankets because it wasn’t high enough. We were home most of the time for the first couple of months and got to where we would nurse in bed the majority of the time. Now my littlest has gotten to where she prefers nursing in bed over anything. Most of our feedings that aren’t in bed don’t go very well.”

Each mother and child pair will find its own comfort level when it comes to breastfeeding, but a nursing pillow is a great tool to have on hand if that extra support is needed. Unlike other baby gear that can be expensive, and take up a lot of space, a nursing pillow is inexpensive, easy to store and easy to give to another family if a mom finds that she doesn’t use it.

Pregnant mothers who plan to breastfeed should have a nursing pillow ready to go right after delivery. The pillows are most needed in the first weeks of baby’s life and are particularly helpful when a mother has had a Caesarean section and needs extra support lifting her newborn during breastfeeding. If you know you’re having a C-section or multiples, a nursing pillow may be a priority, whether or not you plan to breastfeed. As moms regain their strength and babies grow stronger between 1 to 4 months of age, the need for a nursing pillow for breastfeeding diminishes. But you can still use the pillow when cuddling.

Some nursing pillows double as a support for babies before they can sit up on their own and can be used for tummy time exercises as young as 2 months of age, or when baby can hold his own head up. As we mentioned above, it’s important to note that while nursing pillows have become synonymous with activities outside of breastfeeding, they are not officially approved for them and parents should always keep a close eye on baby as she develop and never leave baby unattended with a nursing pillow.

What makes a good nursing pillow?

If you’ve done any prior research on nursing pillows, you’ve probably discovered the time-tested, mother-approved “Boppy” pillow. The brand is so popular that its name has become synonymous with a nursing pillow. However, the Boppy isn’t the only choice out there, and based on our research it’s not the best choice either. So what differentiates nursing pillows?

The No. 1 thing to consider is comfort. If the nursing pillow isn’t comfortable for mom and baby, it’s simply going to be stuffed in a closet and forgotten. How do you know what’s going to be most comfortable since you’re buying this before baby has arrived and you’ve never breastfed? Consider the material the nursing pillow is made of. The Boppy and Dr. Brown’s Gia Nursing Pillow  brands, for example, are similar to a soft bed pillow while My Brest Friend is made of a foam material (think: Memory Foam mattress-like). The Boppy and Gia lift baby toward mom and take some of the weight off, but they don’t change for baby or mom’s bodies.My Brest Friend’s foam adjusts to the changing size and shape of a breastfeeding mom’s body.

If the nursing pillow isn’t comfortable for mom and baby, it’s simply going to be stuffed in a closet and forgotten.

You’ll also want a nursing pillow that’s easy to clean and comes with a removable/washable slipcover. Moms do not need extras like nursing bracelets that remind them which breast to use during the next nursing session (you will quickly learn that nature tells you this all on its own), or designer fabrics that will likely only be seen by you and your baby (and will go through all sorts of abuse that will quickly discredit the higher price tag). Save your money for diapers.

When you’re pregnant, you may not be thinking ahead to the next baby—but when it comes to investments in baby gear, you really should, especially if you know for sure you want more kids. Seek out reviews on the nursing pillow you want to buy and see how other parents report it holding up. You should also ask your friends. In our research, we found five families that had used My Brest Friend for multiple children and who reported that it held up well for many years. Though a nursing pillow is a relatively inexpensive item to replace, every dollar (especially when you have children) counts.

In our research, we discovered that the baseline cost for a nursing pillow is about $20. Anything less than that was too thin and did not come with a wide variety of options like slipcovers (which are generally purchased separately), or travel options. Anything over $45, though, tended to not justify the higher price tag and had basically the same features as the lower price tags. Paying more for designer fabrics, for example, is not a feature we recommend based on the basic necessity of a nursing pillow: comfort during breastfeeding.

How we tested

We began the research process like most parents would—with an Internet search. We found that unlike other baby products, the variety of nursing pillows available is pretty narrow, with only 10 models from a variety of brand names. After that initial search research, we narrowed our results to the three brands that stood out time and again in professional and consumer reviews. Those included our pick, My Brest Friend, along with Dr. Brown’s Gia Nursing Pillow and the ever-popular Boppy. We took these directly to the women who could give us the best answers: breastfeeding mothers. We had three mothers use the pillows for nursing and then report back on which features they liked the best and which nursing pillows seemed to work best at making the process simpler and more comfortable. We also had women of various shapes and sizes pull each pillow up to their midsections and recorded which pillows seemed to contour the best, and which ones were not as body-neutral.

In addition to using the nursing pillows in action, we took the nursing pillow slipcovers on and off to determine durability and ease of removal. We also interviewed over a dozen mothers who currently breastfeed, or have in the past, regarding their feelings towards different nursing pillows they have used—along with a lactation consultant. Over and over, My Brest Friend kept coming out on top in all of our testing areas.

Our Pick

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 23 x 16.6 x 6 inches
  • Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Min Weight Recs: 16 ounces
  • Max weight Recs: 22 pounds

After 25 hours of testing and interviews, we are confident that My Brest Friend Deluxe is the one to buy because of its durability, reasonable price and adjustability to different body types. At just $49 on Amazon, it is an affordable product that is worth the price for the comfort and confidence it builds into the breastfeeding process.

It was the Memory Foam-like foam material that made My Brest Friend a winner in the comfort category. Our testing found that it adjusted the best to a variety of body types, from petite moms to plus-sized ones. The foam isn’t rigid and contours to the bodies of both moms and babies, eliminating gaps between the pillow and Mom’s body. We found in our own research, and in speaking with breastfeeding mothers, that the pillow design of competing nursing pillows often requires adjustment mid-session. Particularly for petite moms, nursing pillows not made with foam do not contour to the sides of the body, leaving a gap between the pillow and the sides of the mother.

Unlike most other nursing pillows, My Brest Friend has a belt that straps around the back of the mother to hold the pillow in place. This keeps the pillow firmly pressed against mom during nursing and eliminates the need to keep pulling it closer to the body while baby eats. For moms who hope to pull babies into bed with them for nighttime feedings, with as little fuss as possible, the added step of a strap could be a no-go because even a few extra seconds of work with a hungry baby can mean the difference between a baby who latches well, and one who takes a few minutes of soothing before nursing can begin. But, even without the belt, My Brest Friend stayed in place on mom just as well as the Boppy and Gia.

Breastfeeding can be a dirty job, between leaked milk and spit up, your nursing pillow is sure to see its share of both things—and more. My Brest Friend can be spot-treated with mild soap and warm water. You can buy a My Brest Friend Deluxe with a slipcover for $38 and can buy extra removable/machine-washable slipcovers for $13 to $18. (Note: Always buy slipcovers that are made specifically for the nursing pillow you own, as ones that are too large can present a suffocation hazard to nursing babies.)

When it comes to durability, My Brest Friend gets the highest recommendations from consumer reviews, with at least five families (that we found) saying it held up for two or more breastfed children. Much like foam versus regular stuffed pillows used in regular beds, foam nursing pillows hold up longer than pillow materials, and do not run into issues like clumping or loss of fluffiness or buoyancy. We did not find the same suggestions for any other nursing pillows we reviewed.

who else likes it?

Heather Corley from About.com says of My Brest Friend: “For moms who have a hard time getting a Boppy to fit properly, My Brest Friend may be a better pillow for you. This pillow can be rotated around mom’s body to accommodate different breastfeeding positions.” Corley has reviewed all kinds of baby products, and her approval of My Brest Friend, and for the same reasons we like it, makes us even more sure of its deserving spot on our list.

Ilana Wiles of Alpha Mom is not a fan of the belt feature on My Brest Friend, but did find that it provided a heightened level of breastfeeding support when compared to other brands, including the Boppy. She writes: “It stayed in place while the Boppy might shift as you feed your baby. The height of the pillow is optimal for breastfeeding and your baby is definitely more supported. The back support and arm rests both add additional comfort. And I liked the little pocket on the side which I used to put her pacifier.”

A message board feed on La Leche League’s site regarding the “best” nursing pillows named My Brest Friend again and again as an excellent choice, particularly based on mothers who had tried the Boppy first and then switched to My Brest Friend.

Of the 191 Amazon shoppers who reviewed My Brest Friend, 131 gave it 5 out of 5 stars. Overall, My Brest Friend received a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. The reviewers gave highest praise to the nursing pillow’s durability (one person mentioned its sturdiness through three breastfed babies), its ease of slipcover removal and cleaning, and its back support. The Boppy received 4 out of 5 stars with 247 reviews, and Dr. Brown’s Gia pillow received 4.5 out of 5 stars with 87 reviews.

Of 51 reviews on the site Epinions, My Brest Friend received 4.5 out of 5 stars overall, with reviewers calling it a “nursing mom’s best friend” and “the single best gift for nursing moms.” Reviewers specifically named pros like back support, lightweight design, supports baby’s weight, and the ability to nurse one handed. The Boppy pillow also received 4.5 out of 5 stars (with 330 reviewers—signaling its popularity) and Dr. Brown’s Gia pillow was not reviewed.

Babies R Us reviewers gave My Brest Friend 5 out of 5 stars and so did Target reviewers.

 

What About Moms with Multiples?

For moms who plan to nurse two babies at once, there are only a few nursing pillows on the market but they are certainly worth a look.

Double Blessing San Diego Bebe TWIN Lavender Minky Dot ($70)  This nursing pillow secures behind a mother’s neck with an adjustable strap. It can support up to 70 pounds and has an angled top surface that puts babies closer to mom.

Twin Z Pillow ($100)  This feeding pillow is designed for more than just breastfeeding—it also promotes itself as an easy way for moms of twins to support two babies bottle-feeding at the same time. Its “Z” shape (which looks more like an “M” to us) situates mom in between two babies for feeding sessions, and is also advertised as a supportive way to balance babies during tummy time and as they are beginning to sit up.

My Brest Friend Twins Plus Deluxe ($56)  All of the reasons we love the original My Brest Friend apply to the twin model too. The nursing pillow has adjustable back support, easy-to-wash zipper covers and adjusts well to a variety of body types (though it is admittedly larger and more cumbersome than the one for singletons).

The Competition

We considered these alternative nursing pillows, but we can’t recommend them:

 

  • Minky Nursing Pillows ($35)These pillows, that claim the trademark “nursing pillows,” appear similar to Boppys in design, size and features but come with a higher price tag.
  • Leachco Cuddle-U Original Nursing Pillow ($40)Once again, the design of this nursing pillow is similar to a Boppy, but costs $10 more. It does come with a belt feature that feasibly keeps baby in place when the pillow is used for support, and not breastfeeding, but since this guide is about the best pillows for nursing, we could not make it one of our recommendations based on this feature.

 

  • Leachco Natural Boost Adjustable Nursing Pillow ($25) This nursing pillow seems a great idea (and a bargain) when you look at it—with an extra angled piece that supports baby’s body and a thick pillow portion to lift baby closer to mom. In researching reviews of this product, however, we discovered that many moms thought it lifted baby too high (almost up to the chin of one reviewer) and that the pillow itself was too cumbersome and difficult to wash.
  • NurSit Nursing Pillow ($19) This is basically a less-expensive version of the Boppy. It is simple in design, but we cannot recommend it based on all of the reasons we previously listed in this guide for the Boppy.
  • Balboa Nursing Pillow ($50; La Leche League International) This pillow is a thicker, rectangular shape that reportedly lifts baby to mom’s breasts with. We actually asked the kind folks at Balboa for one of these pillows so we could test it (if LLL endorsed it, we wanted to try it!) but we were told that they are no longer being manufactured. You can still buy them on the LLL site but it appears that may not be the case for long.

Care, Use, Maintenance, and Repair

A nursing pillow is one of the easiest care items you will unwrap at your baby shower. There is no assembly needed, and with the exception of trying to stuff the pillow back into a slipcover after you’ve washed it, you won’t face much frustration with it. (And on that note: Allow slipcovers to air dry to prevent shrinkage.)

Some nursing pillows are completely machine washable, but you will want to keep slipcovers on the ones that are not, like My Brest Friend, to keep the pillow from getting stained or damaged. The pillow part of My Brest Friend cannot be submerged in the water of a washing machine but the foam pillow can be spot treated with warm soapy water if necessary and then air-dried completely before a slipcover is placed on it again.

When you do wash the slipcover portion of My Brest Friend Deluxe, follow these steps (per the manufacturer):

  1. Unzip the slipcover and remove completely from the pillow.
  2. Zip cover closed to protect zipper prior to washing.
  3. Wash in warm water on the gentle cycle. Do not use hot water or bleach.
  4. Do not put cover in the dryer. Air-dry the cover to prevent shrinkage.
  5. For all professional slipcovers, wipe down with an anti-microbial wipe or spray.

Like other baby gear, you will want to keep your nursing pillow as clean, dry and pristine as possible (good luck!), particularly if you hope to use it for subsequent babies. Before packing it away for storage, remove the slipcover to give the pillow a chance to “breathe.” Avoid storing in any place with damp air, and try to keep it in a climate-controlled area.

what to look forward to

If the makers of My Brest Friend get their way, insurance companies will soon have to cover the cost of nursing pillows (preferably given to mothers in the hospital). Working alongside The Milky Way Foundation, a group that works to normalize breastfeeding in American culture, the executives at My Brest Friend are urging insurance companies and lawmakers to push for better support for nursing mothers as a health and economic benefit. They cite research that shows that breastfed babies have stronger immune systems, leading to a long-term reduction in health care costs. “It is imperative that nursing moms are provided with the tools, time and confidence to succeed in breastfeeding.The benefits of breastfeeding are so important and there is a dire need for our American culture to fully understand and support this,” said My Brest Friend CEO Andrew Zenoff in a company release. So price may someday not be an issue for breastfeeding moms who want a nursing pillow.

Your Guide: Katie Parsons

Katie Parsons is a freelance writer, editor and “mommy blogger” with a background in news media. She has five children through a combined family and enjoys running (alone) and singing in a community choir (together).

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